Nguyen Khac Ham:
During the 1939-1940
period there was a working class
movement here struggling for pay hikes and decrease of working hours. In
especially, the French wanted to draft us into
the colonial army and send us over to Europe
to repair their war making implements for them, now
that the French and German war was going on.
But we protested and refused to go. So there was a
working class movement in opposition to the French attempt to send us over to France
. As a result, we handed out
a lot of leaflets. At night, we went to the city of Vinh
and spread the leaflets out in all of the
various factories. Subsequently, I got arrested and tortured. The French secret police at that
time had many barbaric forms of torture.
I was hanged up in mid air with a rope and beaten with
sticks in the meantime. This went on for two weeks. The beating would
start around 7 p.m. and ended around 9 p.m. or 8 p.m. on some days. I
refused to divulge any information. At that time, if you gave them a lot
of information, they still kept you in prison. And if you did not
divulge any information, they would give you a sentence. After a month
of this kind of interrogation, they sentenced me to twelve years of
For cadres whom they considered low level, they had
them jailed in Lao Binh
. But for
cadres whom they thought to be more active like me, they exiled us to
Ban Me Thuot. In Ban Me Thuot" from 1931 to
1939 many political prisoners were killed because of the struggle in
prison. The Ban Me Thuot"
area was formerly an area inhabited by minority people and an area where
the climate was extremely unfavorable.
exiled Communist political prisoners there in order to use their labor
to open up the forest and build the city of Ban Me Thuot". This was because they did not
have to pay a penny for this kind of development. Secondly they exiled
us there in order to have us killed by the unfavorable climate and
terrain and the hard labor. After we arrived, many of us contracted
malarial disease and urinated blood (resulting from hemorrhages caused
by a virus transmitted by the mosquitoes) and died in large number as a
But we staged continual struggles there. There are
some in the Central Committee now like Mr. Nguyen Duy Trinh who had been there before me
and who, subsequently, got additional sentences as a result of the
struggles in the prison and were exiled to the penal island of Con Lon.
But for political prisoners of our generation who got sent up there in
1940, the conditions were extremely harsh.
There were six main cells in the prison and we were placed in long rows
in these cells with our feet shackled to long cangues.
In the morning, after the gong sounded, they unlocked
our feet from the cangues and herded us out of the cells to make us
work. While working, we usually got whipped. The food situation was very
bad. But we continued to struggle. In 1937,
there had been a huge struggle in the prison. And although many people
were given additional sentences and exiled elsewhere, the food situation
But in 1939, during the period of the French-German war, they cut down on the food ration. As a result, the
food situation was extremely critical. And so we had to stage continual
struggle. When we went on strike and presented them with demands for
more food, they had us beaten up very badly. They used the Rhade (an ethnic minority in
the area) soldiers to beat us up.